Ambient 28° Track 34° Humidity 76% Wind 1.7m/s
Hot and humid, the glistening lights of Singapore poured down on the paddock, illuminating the colours of the cars in surreal clarity, exaggerating the already lurid hues of the Circus. No answers from Merc as to whether they are sandbagging in P3 but the pundits are saying ixnay, proper problems persist. The story not being talked so much about, of course is how massive a change the new Pirelli recommendations are relative to last year. Alexander Rossi made his debut at a very difficult track as behind the scenes at the Strategy Group, all sorts of kerfluffle reverberate behid the scenes.
Q1 confirmed that Mercedes were properly in it, with early times putting them at best 5th and 6th and forcing them to strap on the SuperSofts to advance, a highly unusual postion for them. Ricciardo looked to be raciest with Vettel, but honestly the man from Maranello was in a league of his own today, easily taking P1 whenever he appeared on track. Lot’s of screen time for Rossi, though, so good for him but at the end he couldn’t put it together and got schooled by his teammate. The shot of him slewing the car across the bridge will no doubt make his personal scrapbook. Still, Q1 is not about who’s fastest, but who’s slowest and going into it Sainz, Perez, Maldonado, and the Manors were in danger of being relegated. When all was said and done it was Button just squeaking through, and it was the Saubers, Manors and unlucky Maldonado, who were out. That won’t make Monisha happy as it was their brand new iteration of the car.
Q2 continued the tale of 2 teams, with Red Bull and Ferrari relentlessly controlling the top 4 spots. Further down the order, the struggle to get to Q3 was taking shape, with McHonda hoping to get through to Q3 and Force India struggling. Alonso was clearly getting the better of Button early days, with Force India and Grosjean the other runners in danger of being cut after the first runs concluded. In the 2nd runs, as the field came round to set their final times, Carlos Sainz overdid it and whacked the wall, breaking his suspension. This spoiled everyone’s last chance in Q2, a shame as Alonso was P12 and on a good lap. It shook out with Hulkenberg, Alonso, Perez, Sainz and Button taking their final bow for the day. Vettel continued to dominate at the top, but the race between Raikkonen and Ricciardo was clearly on as they continued to be separated by a tenth or so, with Ricciardo having the upper hand through the first 2 sessions.
Q3 carried on with Vettel dominating and with both runs far ahead of the field, Sebastian took pole and glory 0.5s ahead of his nearest competitor, Ricciardo. Hamilton provided drama for Mercedes by scotching his first run, bouncing hard over the rumble strips and bottoming the car out. Verstappen sparkled as well, ultimately going P8 and giving Bottas, just ahead of him, something to think about. Despite the poor first efforts, Mercedes came P5 and and P6, with Hamilton at least being faster than Rosberg, though with both cars 1.5s off the pace, it will be quite a different race for them tomorrow. Ricciardo won the race for P2 and will have his first front row start, with Raikkonen P3 and Kvyat P4 liable to provide some entertainment through the first corners at least.
Different tyre pressures and cambers seem to have shaken things up, though once again at the top the dominance of Sebastian looks to be rather unchallenged for tomorrow. Fortunately, the almost certain appearance of the Safety Car plus the new Start procedures allow at least the possibility of a Joker being thrown in the mix.
Post Quali interviews seem to indicate Mercedes can’t get the tyres into their working range, but the real winner was Jenson Button’s interview on Sky. Congratulations to Sebastian Vettel and glory days for the tifosi.
Have fun in the comments and good luck sorting out who goes where after the penalties. See you tomorrow!